Those that have free range chickens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by cityturncountry, Mar 21, 2015.

  1. cityturncountry

    cityturncountry In the Brooder

    Mar 20, 2015
    Thinking about having my chickens (they will be hatched April 29th) free range. I live near woods so I know there is some (a lot?) of risk to this. We live on 4 acres and half of it is surrounded by woods and half of it is surrounded by a huge farm where we randomly see cows. Do free range chickens stay near their coop or do they like to roam? I have a dog kennel (chain link) that I plan on using for their run for when I can't be there to watch them or for inclement weather.

  2. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    My hens free range and typically stay within 300 yards of the coop, with most of their time spent within 100 yards. Their preference seems to be the yard and the forest edge that surrounds a couple sides of the yard.

    Over the past 4 years, I've lost 3 hens to predators. All of the losses have been due to hawks and have occurred in Feb/March or November, which coincides with hawk migration. They seem more vulnerable during these periods as they're having to deal with both resident and migrating raptors, and there is very little cover. During these times of the year, I'm more likely to restrict free-ranging to part of the day, letting them out mid-morning.

    Although each loss is very sad, I consider these losses to be an acceptable level of risk as the hens seem much happier and healthier when allowed to free range. I have also noticed that the hens become more hawk-savvy after an attempted or successful hawk attack, which may explain why my current flock hasn't experienced any losses for over a year. Some of the worst predators are nocturnal, so night-time losses can be prevented entirely with a secure coop.

    It's really important to know what potential predators are in your area, and guard against them. Dogs are one of the top predators; people have lost chickens due to their own dogs as well as the neighbor's dogs.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    My birds also range over about six acres of my farm, both in a spruce boarder, and pasture with some trees. I have lost a few birds to hawks, and after one is missing, I lock the flock in their hawk safe run for a week or two, until that bird moves on. So far I haven't had a daytime dog disaster.[​IMG] Two years age a sick fox took out ten nice hens one afternoon; that was very bad, but a one- time event. Night time predators are the worst, so locking them in a safe coop every night is most important. Mary
  4. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    If your place is surrounded by woods, you can be sure there are predators living in them. I have a similar situation, therefore I only let my flock free range when I'm out there. Even so, I've had a hawk dive-bomb my chickens just a few feet from where I was standing. A friend had a bob cat run in and snatch a chicken right at her feet. It happens.

    The rest of the time they're in a predator-proof covered run. Your chain link dog kennel will need hardware cloth around the bottom fencing and some sort of cover to be predator-proof.

  5. RASS

    RASS Chirping

    Jan 26, 2013
    Mine free range but I close door after they roost; I had a problem with coon but consider it my fault because I did not close door at night. They stay reasonably close to coop most of the day.

    Good luck
  6. JackE

    JackE Crowing

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    I got away with freeranging for almost a full year. Then in a 3 month span, I lost 16 birds, in 2 day attacks to the fox. Sometimes predators won't take just one. I ended up surrounding the chicken's area with 650' of electrified poultry net. As far as how far out they would go from the coop, 3-400 yards or so, is what I seen. Freeranging was cool for as long as it lasted. But I could not get away with it here.
  7. Spangled

    Spangled Songster

    Jan 12, 2012
    Serenity Valley
    A rooster. For me and my hens, a rooster is key to the situation. Usually we have two roosters running with the hens. The hens will split up--only about 15-20--and some will go one way and some will go another or some will stay near the coop. The roosters keep an eye on the sky and another eye on alert for ground predators. They make warning squawks and the hens freeze or dive for cover. Some roosters will fight a predator; some will run. Either way, I'm happy because the hens are alerted and will take measures to protect themselves. If for a few weeks the roosters are busy in a breeding pen, then the free ranging hens will split up while out foraging. The roosters keep them bunched up together, which I think is safer for them, since if there is a risk, he will alert them. The hens alone seem much more vulnerable, so I'm glad we have roosters.

    My hens are almost always within 70 yards of the coop. I measured it with our GPS. I wish they would go further, but I guess they get enough stuff running around that large of an area. I know sometimes that there are lots more grasshoppers out there if they would just travel a little further, but the rarely do. And it was one very independent hen that roamed far and wide alone that got one of our best roosters killed quite a few years ago now. I know it was her because the predator left her hen apron right next to the dead rooster. Sad.

    Some of it does depend on what the hens can find while free ranging and what different kinds of dirt, grasses, leaves, mud, etc., they can find to scratch around in. It also depends on what kind of cover they can find since they like to be under something while scratching and nosing/beaking around. I suppose if the area is flat open and cover is 120 yards away with a good food source, then the hens would travel that far. Mine would be certainly be tempted, but there's currently enough to scratch around in between 10 - 70 yards of the coop.

    Some of it depends on which breeds we have any given year. Our Black Copper Marans are notorious for sticking around the feeder. That's when I move the feeder out a ways from the coop and put it under trees/bushes. This also cuts down on turning the area around the coop into a desert (of sorts since the vegetation is depleted if the hens hang around coop all day). It's not always a breed issue how far they roam, but there is a correlation of sorts, with there being outliers in every breed.
    1 person likes this.

  8. SmColorInDaPan

    SmColorInDaPan Songster

    Jun 19, 2012
    Hi, CTC, welcome.
    ***REALLY think Spangled gave good info. [​IMG]******

    I am on 20 acres, mostly open. Have heard of many predators here, only lost chickens to my Dog, One attempt by a hawk was diverted, they haven't tried again, that I know of. Dog KNOWS better now. I have an OPEN 3 hen hutch however my chickens are ALL OPEN RANGE. With the exception of my bigger Bantam Roo, everyone roosts in a tree nearby the back porch. Dogs are pretty danged good about letting me know of anything off, LURKING and older Roo, keeps his head up and his EYES OUT. My kids don't go very far from area they see me go. About the same distance as stated above.....

    Since almost everyone here is a free ranger, I have a question on eggs, chicks. One of my Plymouth Rock hens just reappeared. i thought CERTAIN she was gone, no sign of her for about 3-4 weeks. One of my PRs went broody last year, so it appears we're going for #2. I have only 2 mini bantams and a regular size Bantam.
    *(PIX)* Older, bigger boy in b-ground, Lil man in the foreground. Can they even BREED to such a big girl? One of the 2 PR girls is partially seen on top of pix.
    What is the likelihood Chicks may come teetering up for grain in the next few weeks?
    I DON'T have the ability to incubate eggs, (solar power) even if I could find them. How long does it take to get them cracking? Pardon the Pun, just COULDN'T let that one lay...Oops, did it again.. Any info would be helpful. PRs are about 3 yrs old? maybe 4, this year...THX,
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
  9. SmColorInDaPan

    SmColorInDaPan Songster

    Jun 19, 2012

    Hi, Hope I can rcv some suggestions for my reversal situation to what is Usually posted.
    I was gifted with 2 RIRs, y-day. They replace 2 older PRs a fox, coyote, made off with.
    The RIRs were penned, 2 each, in a cage about 2.5 X 3. I have them in a 3 hen hutch FOR NOW, keeping water, scratch and extras with them. The door has been opened, in the day, FOR NOW. I have 2 hens that are Completely FREE RANGE; they roost in a tree, when we get below 30, they tuck under a table on my back porch, while i keep the water defrosted. YES, been doing it 5 yrs now, No Catastrophes...
    How long or will it happen, that the RIR girls will free range as the others? Is there anyway, aside from bringing them outside a little each day, that I can do to introduce them to New Freedom? ALSO help repair damage from such small pens? (pictured) I'm on a TIGHT budget so Homemade things, ideas, are WONDERFUL.
    I WOULD appreciate any Further suggestions. [​IMG]

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